Mystery May
The Mystery of the Hidden Photograph, Part One

The Mystery of the Hidden Photograph, Part One
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.27

     challenging words:    gossamer, helping, shadowy, tippy, rectangular, schoolteacher, antique, various, buttermilk, especially, wiry, meals, actually, photo, gravy, fell
     content words:    Great Uncle Floyd, Great Uncle, Great Aunt Ella

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The Mystery of the Hidden Photograph, Part One
By Colleen Messina

1     Cheryl never liked to go down into Grandma's basement. Even though pretty jars of green pickles and orange peach jam lined the wooden shelves, the basement still seemed eerie to her. The hair on the back of Cheryl's neck stood out when she went down there, and she felt as if something or someone might jump out of a shadowy corner and grab her!
2     Cheryl enjoyed the rest of Grandma's old house in rural Ohio. She spent summer vacations there with her brother Brent. They each had a room upstairs. On the wall hung pictures of serious relatives whose photos were taken long before photographers said, "Smile and say cheese!" As a result, they all looked grim and pale.
3     The rest of Grandma's house was full of other fascinating antiques and old photo albums. The albums contained pictures of Grandma when she was young. There was one picture of Great Uncle Floyd, Grandma's brother, in his dark Sunday suit. Sitting next to him was his wife, Ella, in a dark dress with a white collar. Her wiry hands were wrapped tightly in her lap as if she were holding on for dear life. Cheryl felt as though she knew these two from the many stories her grandmother had shared.
4     Cheryl's favorite story was about Great Uncle Floyd's effort to fly by jumping off the barn wearing wings he had designed himself. It was no surprise that he didn't fly, and he broke his leg in the attempt. Great Aunt Ella was a bit more down to earth. She had distinguished herself as an excellent schoolteacher even though she herself had no children.
5     Other photographs of various relatives filled the albums--a silent, serious record of the passage of lives. Cheryl and Brent spent a lot of time looking at these old photographs in between helping with farm chores and eating Grandma's delicious meals.
6     Grandma loved to cook special dishes for her grandchildren. Cheryl's favorite meal was homemade egg noodles and baked chicken swimming in gravy. She served her meals on blue and white china plates, and the children liked to use the antique silverware. Cheryl especially liked how the large soup spoons felt in her mouth, so heavy and substantial.
7     On this soft summer evening, Grandma had made thick grilled cheese sandwiches, cole slaw, and buttermilk biscuits. She poured root beer into large glass mugs and put them at each place. She stacked the plates high with food and called the children to come for supper. Whoops, something was missing: fresh, spicy homemade pickles.
8     "Cheryl, can you please run down to the basement and get another jar of pickles? I think that would taste good with these sandwiches," said Grandma.
9     "Sure," said Cheryl, trying to sound excited about the task.

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